USA-Serbia Men's Friendly Player Ratings

Jan. 25 in Los Angeles
USA 1 Serbia 2. Goals: Vazquez 29; Ilic 43, Simic 46.
Att.: 11,475
* * * * * * * * * *

A young, inexperienced U.S. team faced an even younger, even less experienced Serbian squad in its 2023 opener and fell, 2-1. Led by interim coach Anthony Hudson, the USA with seven uncapped starters did provide some excitement. It included a terrific headed goal by Brandon Vazquez, two shots off the post within a minute by Cade Cowell, and a spirited albeit futile comeback attempt. But while the Americans outshot Serbia, 20-11, the Serbs put six on target and the USA five.

USA Player Ratings
(1=low; 5=middle; 10=high.)


Gaga Slonina blocked a close-range shot from Veljko Simic with his torso and batted the ball to safety after the U.S. backline went missing during a Serb counterattack in the 31st minute. He stood his ground to block Simic's volley from 12 yards in the 36th minute. Slonina's wall failed him on the Serbs' first goal. The second goal was a Simic shot from close range, but had Slonina not dived he may have been able to block it with his foot.

Player (Club) caps/goals (age)

Gaga Slonina (Chelsea/ENG) 1/0 (18)


Central defender Jalen Neal blocked Dejan Joveljic's close-range shot in the 4th minute after a deflected header flew past Slonina. On Serbia's winning goal, after midfielder Aidan Morris misplayed a high ball, central defender Jalen Neal hesitated, then tapped the ball to Veljko Simic while left back Jonathan Gomez waited too long to move inside. During the counterattack that gave Serbia its big 31st minute chance: Walker Zimmerman mis-timed his tackle attempt on Joveljic at the  halfway line; nearby right back Julian Gressel was in the Serbian half and left in the dust by Nemanja Petrovic; Neal failed to close in on Petrovic; Gomez lost Simic, whose shot Slonina saved spectacularly. Zimmerman, the team's most experienced player who was subbed at halftime, jumped clear of Luka Ilic's free kick and it flew into the side of the goal the wall was meant to protect. Gressel, who was subbed at halftime, delivered the cross for the USA's goal. Gomez stayed on for the full game and attacked more in the second half from his left flank.

Player (Club) caps/goals (age)

Julian Gressel (Vancouver Whitecaps) 1/0 (29)

Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC) 38/3 (29)

Jalen Neal (LA Galaxy) 1/0 (19)

Jonathan Gomez (Real Sociedad/ESP) 2/0 (19)


Aidan Morris, who gave away the ball a couple times early on, won the ball in his own half and dribbled 60 yards before forcing a good save with a 26-yard shot. The only U.S. midfielder to play the entire game, Morris lapsed on Serbia's second goal and faded near the end when needed most. He messed up a nice right flank surge with a giveaway and passed out bounds as the seconds ticked off. Paxton Pomykal committed the foul for the free kick Serbia scored on and was part of a midfield trio with Morris and Alan Sonora that found some consistency only after the Serbs bunkered in to defend their lead. Sonora's highlight came with a 19th-minute through pass to set up a Cowell shot.

Player (Club) caps/goals (age)

Alan Sonora (Unattached) 1/0 (24)

Aidan Morris (Columbus Crew) 1/0 (21)

Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas) 2/0 (23)


Brandon Vazquez's goal came with a perfectly placed header after a precisely timed run to meet Gressel's cross. Of his other three shots, one forced a save and two went wide, including a searing long-range shot from a Cade Cowell pass after Cowell got the ball thanks to Vazquez deflecting goalkeeper Dorde Petrovic's clearance. Cowell on the left wing created the most problems for the Serbs. He took two shots in the 56th minute. The first was a left-footed shot that hit the right post and the second a right-footed shot that hit the left post. His 26-yard shot in the 58th minute went wide by inches. Cowell could have been more precise with some of his service, but he did set up two chances for teammates, and the Serbs, who clearly struggled to contain him, must have been relieved when Hudson replaced Cowell in the 73rd minute. Right winger Alejandro Zendejas, the only forward Hudson kept on for the full 90, took five shots without forcing a save. But Zendejas did orchestrate attacks during the comeback attempt. After he stole the ball from Marko Ivezic, he back-heeled it to Paul Arriola to set up an open shot inside the penalty area. The Serbs fouled Zendejas a game-high four times, including for three free kicks in the second half that were in position to create scoring chances.

Player (Club) caps/goals (age)

Alejandro Zendejas (Club America/MEX) 1/0 (24)

Brandon Vazquez (FC Cincinnati) 1/1 (24)

Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes) 2/0 (19) 


Aaron Long was still walking when Simic took his first touch on the way to stroking home the winning goal. Kellyn Acosta shot a free kick into a one-man wall and another intended as a lofted pass flew out for a goal kick. Eryk Williamson lost the ball twice and committed a foul before he found composure and after winning a tackle sparked an attack with DeJuan Jones that led to the second of Paul Arriola's shots into the keeper's hands. Matthew Hoppe failed to shoot on goal nor did he otherwise trouble the Serbs.

Player (Club) caps/goals (age)

Aaron Long (LAFC) 30/3 (30)

Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers) 5/0 (25)

DeJuan Jones (New England Revolution) 1/0 (25)

Kellyn Acosta (LAFC) 56/2 (27)

Matthew Hoppe (Middlesbrough/ENG) 7/1 (21)

Paul Arriola (FC Dallas) 49/10 (27)

TRIVIA: The 18-year-old Gaga Slonina became the youngest goalkeeper to appear for the USA since a 19-year-old Tony Meola debuted on June 7, 1988 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in a 1-0 loss to Ecuador. Meola went on to start all of the USA's games at the 1990 and 1994 World Cups and earn 100 caps.

NOTABLE: The USA started seven uncapped players; Serbia started eight newcomers. The USA's starting lineup had a total of 40 pregame caps (37 of which belonged to Walker Zimmerman); Serbia's added up to four.

Jan. 25 in Los Angeles
USA 1 Serbia 2. Goals: Vazquez 29; Ilic 43, Simic 46.
USA — Slonina; Gressel (Jones, 62), Zimmerman (Long, 46), Neal, Gomez; Sonora (Williamson, 58), A.Morris, Pomykal (Acosta, 63); Zendejas, Vazquez (Hoppe, 63), Cowell (Arriola, 73).
Serbia — D.Petrovic (Rosic, 46); Mijailovic, N.Petrovic, Veselinovioc, Stojic; Petkovic (Bijelovic, 81), Topic (Stulic, 46); Simic (Damjanovic, 76), Ilic (Ivezic, 62), Lucic (Pantovic, 72); Joveljic.
Yellow cards: USA — A.Morris 88; Serbia — N.Petrovic 85, Mijailovic. Red cards: none.
Referee: Daneon Parchment (Jamaica). ARs: Caleb Wales (Trinidad & Tobago), Zachari Zeegelaar (Suriname). Fourth: Kwinsi Williams (Trinidad & Tobago).
Att.: 11,475.

Shots: 20/11
Shots on target: 5/6
Saves: 4/4
Corner Kicks: 9/3
Fouls: 9/13
Offside: 0/3
Possession: 62%/38%

Photo: Robert Mora/ISI Photos

7 comments about "USA-Serbia Men's Friendly Player Ratings".
  1. Tusker Donkey, January 26, 2023 at 8:41 a.m.

    So much for veteran leadership.  Zimmerman and Long should both be sent home with that catastrophe of a performance and thank goodness they will be too old for consideration in next Wcup cycle.  Time to find some actual world class CBs

  2. Santiago 1314, January 26, 2023 at 9:14 a.m.

    Not Bad, For a Throw Together Roster, on a Poor CONcacaCrApF Field, with an Interim Coach ...
    Might be the Best, "Twitchyist", "Sparkleist" Camp Cupcake Team we have ever Fielded.???
    Except for (2) INDIVIDUAL Blunders by the Center backs, We Win that game.

  3. frank schoon, January 26, 2023 at 9:33 a.m.

    Tried to watch the first 30min. of it but I just couldn't get into the game. The goal scored by Vasquez was decent but I thought Gressel cross was nicely placed which is the first decent thoughtout, well placed cross from our a backs. On the leftside I wasn't impressed with the crossing capability by Gomez #5, he's executions are too slow, and just doesn't have a feel for it.

    The Serbs FA hired a former great player, a great midfielder who has can handle a ball and played at the top level. He can advise, teach and show players with his high level experience and backround much of the inside details about the game. This is where one starts to build a team-get the best...

  4. James Madison, January 26, 2023 at 4:33 p.m.

    I can undersand inserting Long when Zimmerman had to leave---they added maturity---but why Acosta or Arriola?  Ironic that Zimmerman's wall became a picket fence to allow goal no. 1 and Long played "after you, Alphonse," with Neal for the second.  Otherwise, it was a fair fight, and both Zendejas and Cowell were menacing.

  5. Santiago 1314 replied, January 26, 2023 at 6:37 p.m.

    I think the WOW Factor of Cowell, Overstates that he is a "BLACKHOLE"
    I don't think he Combined with Anyone the Whole night and all his Plays ended up Out of Bounds or Dead.
    Just seemed to be a Newer Version of Morris and Ariolla.
    NOT Bad, just NOT Effective

  6. R2 Dad, January 26, 2023 at 10:06 p.m.

    I loved watching Zendejas in traffic. He's so confident because he knows he is quicker on the ball than any of the Serbs. No traffic was too congested with the ball at his feet. Would like to see him with the full squad.

  7. Kent James, January 27, 2023 at 12:22 a.m.

    I enjoyed the game; I thought the team was very aggressive, skilled, with lots of nice interplay, and a lot of shots that didn't miss by much (is hitting the post 3x a sign of being close to greatness or just a missed shot...).  While the score didn't matter, I thought we played better and should have gotten the result (but for the inexplicable break in the wall, and the unfortunate miscommunication between Neal and Gomez, who both I thought otherwise had good games; Neal seemed pretty steady (other than that half-second of indecision combined with his only bad touch all game).

    Otherwise I was most impressed with Cowell, who seemed very dynamic, creative and worked to create a lot of opportunities.  Vazquez lived up to the hype (very nice header).  Zendejas seemed to be MIA for the first 2/3 of the game, then he came alive and dominated the last third.  Williamson reminded me a bit of Musah when he came on; quick, low center of gravity, good at using his body, able to control the ball under pressure in tight spaces.  

    Generally I saw a lot to like, though it's hard to tell the quality of the Serbian team (since I don't know any of their players), though I will give them credit for putting their shots on goal. 

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